1. What is a public adjuster?

A public adjuster or PA is a licensed insurance claim adjuster who works only for and on behalf of policyholders.  PA’s most often work with  property owners or insureds who have  property insurance, business interruption or extra expense insurance claims.  These claims are also known as first party insurance claims.  

  1. Why do you need a public adjuster?

In recent years, the insurance claims process has become more difficult and cumbersome to manage as a non-professional. Often times, a property owner will hire a public adjuster immediately after the loss to handle the process.

The pubic adjuster’s job is to make sure the policy, along with any applicable Statutes governing adjustment of claims are followed. The public adjuster will evaluate the amount of damages in detail. Such evaluation will usually include qualified expert reports which help determine the scope of damage. Frequently it will also include actual contractors’ estimates or inventories. The true value of a professional public adjuster is to ensure that all damages caused by the loss are included in the claim and all applicable coverages that apply to the loss are utilized.  This information is then packaged, presented, and negotiated with the insurance company using the proper manner and methodology.

The use of a professional public adjuster will greatly reduce the stress and physical strain on the property owner. The compilation, substantiation and presentation of the claim along with having a true professional involved in the negotiation, expedites the result.  

  1. What is different about a Keys Claims public adjuster?

He or she is a licensed public adjuster who excels in the field of professional claim management.  He or she is expert in analyzing the coverage afforded by your specific insurance policy.  Our adjusters are held to a higher than industry standard; receiving ongoing advanced training in the assessment, valuation, handling and negotiation of all aspects of property insurance claims.  Additionally, years of experience are required for a public adjuster to be promoted to a Senior Loss Consultant at our firm.

  1.  Why can’t I just use my own insurance company’s adjuster?

The adjuster the insurance company sends out may be a “staff” employee of the insurance company or the insurance company may use  an “independent adjuster” who works on his own, independently, for many insurance companies.  In either case, these adjusters are paid for their work by the insurance company.

An insured often relies on these insurance company adjusters to quantify their claim.  Statistics confirm that the majority of  people do just that.  However, the insurance adjuster works for the insurance company.  A public adjuster works only for you, the policyholder or property owner.  Our clients enjoy peace of mind knowing they have an adjuster working for them who represents their interest.

  1. Can my insurance agent handle the claim for me?

Insurance Agents are not trained nor are they licensed as claims professionals.

We at Keys Claims receive referrals from Agents and Brokers.  They recognize their expertise and licensure is to sell insurance, not interpret policies, evaluate damages and negotiate claims.

  1. What are the benefits for a Property Management company to use a public adjuster when an insured event has taken place?
  • Property Management companies have a fiduciary duty to ensure the interests of their Associations are protected. When disaster strikes,  it is important for Property Managers to put a system in place which will ensure that the insurance policy  the Association purchased is correctly and effectively utilized.  
  • Property damage often increases the already heavy workload for  the Association manager
  • Property managers are not allowed by law to negotiate property insurance claims.  

As such, Property Management companies frequently call on Keys Claims to effectively represent their clients and ensure their fiduciary duty is satisfied. This allows the burden of meeting with insurance company adjusters, experts and other professionals at the loss site, to fall on the public adjuster, not the management company.

  1. How do you choose the right PA firm for your loss?  

The answer here is to ask questions:  

–   What services does the PA firm provide?

–   What sort of financial backing does the PA firm have?

  • What is their level of experience?
  • Can they handle my claim correctly and professionally?
  • Ask the PA firm for specific references that are comparable to your loss. In other words, if you are a Condominium or Homeowners Association, ask the PA firm for multiple references where the PA firm has handled similar claims.
  1. If I file a property insurance claim, will the insurance company raise my rates or cancel my coverage?

Your property insurance does not work in the same way that your automobile policy does;  where you are rated on your driving habits.

Insurance companies can cancel your coverage for whatever reason they choose.  The filing of a claim should not have any bearing on an individual insured, however. Property policies are generally rated as a group taking into consideration the  region or location of the property,  the insurance company’s exposure to loss and your structure’s type of construction.

  1. Should I hire a lawyer rather than a Public Adjuster?

Attorneys and public adjusters perform different and complimentary roles in insurance matters.

At the outset of an insurance claim, the public adjuster assesses damage and quantifies the claim; preparing it in a  manner appropriate for insurance company consideration.  Then your PA proceeds to negotiate the claim with the insurance carrier.  

If an attorney is hired first by an insured, the attorney frequently then hires a public adjusting firm to prepare this scope of loss and claim package:  damage assessment is not something attorneys generally perform.

If a legal dispute arises with your insurance claim, an attorney should be hired.  During the legal proceedings, the public adjuster and attorney will work together on the client’s behalf.

  1. Can my building contractor negotiate with the insurance company to settle my claim?

     Can my adjuster function as my contractor on the claim?

NO to both questions.   While your contractor can certainly write an estimate for you to submit to your insurance company, the contractor is forbidden from meeting with the adjuster and negotiating the claim. To do so is the unlicensed practice of public adjusting and is a third degree felony.

  1. How is a public adjuster compensated?

A public adjuster is usually compensated on a contingency fee basis. Depending on the type and size of loss, fees generally range from 10-20%. However, in Florida, when the Governor invokes the emergency rule, all PA fees are capped at 10%. Also,some public adjusters work by the hour. I suggest you discuss payment options with your public adjuster and determine what method is best for you.

  1. What is Appraisal?  

Appraisal is a process that is contained in most property insurance policies.  If there is a continuing disagreement as to the amount of the loss even after normal settlement negotiations have taken place, the Appraisal provision of the policy may be invoked.  Appraisal  is an alternative dispute resolution process which is meant to avoid the necessity for a costly litigation.

The Appraisal process is generally explained as such:  The insured will appoint an Appraiser to serve as his or her Appraiser and the insurance company will appoint someone (other than the original adjuster) to serve as their Appraiser. The two chosen Appraisers will attempt to agree to an Umpire (often a retired Judge). These two chosen Appraisers will meet and attempt to settle the disagreement regarding the amount of the loss.  If they cannot reach an agreement as to the amount of the loss, each Appraiser presents their position to the Umpire.  The Umpire issues a ruling and any two signatures on the ruling indicating agreement creates a binding settlement.

How an Appraiser is paid often varies from State to State so please inquire as to what is applicable in your situation.  It is important to note that some states require the Appraiser to be “impartial” or “disinterested”.  Where required, this changes how the Appraiser charges and interacts with the insured and insurance company.  

  1. What is Mediation?  

Mediation in property insurance claims is a non-binding settlement conference wherein a neutral third party attempts to assist the insured and the insurance company to settle their disagreement.   Mediation is usually attended by an Attorney for each side and the neutral Mediator. This conference is also frequently attended by your Public Adjuster and the Adjuster for the insurance company.  

  1. We received a check from our insurance company but it is not enough to repair the damage to our property.  What do we do?

The first thing NOT to do is to sign a Release until you have discussed your situation with a professional. In Florida, it is common to receive a check for what is referred to as the “undisputed damages”.   

After final settlement with the assistance of your Public Adjuster or Appraiser, another check is issued for  the final settlement amount less any previous payments.

  1. How long does it take to settle a claim?

That is a very good question and probably the most frequently asked question after property damage occurs. Each claim and each insurance company are very different in that regard. The best rule of thumb is the sooner you obtain professional help, the sooner the claim will be settled. Ask your Keys Claims’s representative for an approximate time for the settlement of your claim.

  1.  What is the OPPAGA study relating to Public Adjusters in the State of Florida?

OPPAGA  or the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability for the State of Florida conducts policy research on the performance of state programs and provides information and recommendations to the Legislature.  Their Report No. 10-06 examined claims against Citizens Property Insurance Corporation in cases with public adjuster involvement and issued a report in January 2010.  

Report No. 10-06 dated 2010 studied both catastrophe claims filed against Citizens Property Insurance Corporation between March 2008 and June 2009 related to the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes and also non-catastrophic new claims filed during the same period.

14,997 catastrophe claims were studied.  

7, 698  were new claims dating back to the 2004, 2005 hurricanes

7,299 were reopened claims pertaining to the 2004, 2005 hurricanes.  

61,324 non-catastrophe claims were studied

“claims data found that cases took longer to reach a settlement but received higher payments when claimants used public adjusters for claims filed in 2008 and 2009.”   

The public adjuster involved catastrophe claims resulted in payments to policyholders that were 747% higher (gross before payment of fees).   

For public adjuster involved non-catastrophe claims filed during this period policyholders received an estimated 574% more in settlement (gross before payment of fees).

For the complete report:   www.oppaga.state.fl.us/MonitorDocs/Reports/pdf/1006rpt.pdf